MESA, Ariz. – One last time at HoHoKam Stadium, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning was changed to include the lyric, “If the Cubs don’t win it’s a shame.”
Thursday’s game marked the end of a 17-year stay by the Cubs at HoHoKam as their spring training home. The club will move into a new facility about four miles away next year.
“It’ll be interesting to see how the new one compares to some of the other nice parks in Arizona,” said 74-year-old Wes Odean, an Elmhurst resident down for spring training. “This place has been good, but now we will have something that should be really special.”
The fans turned out to say goodbye, 11,635 were in attendance as the Cubs lost 6-4 to the Seattle Mariners.
The Cubs had a 132-119-13 all-time record at HoHoKam, which will become the home of the Oakland Athletics in 2015. The overall attendance at HoHoKam since 1997 was 2,610,736.
Cubs No. 5 starter Carlos Villanueva went five innings in his final spring training start and allowed four hits, three runs – one earned – and two walks with three strikeouts.
“It’s been good the last two times out,” he said. “I have been able to treat it like real game speed and I have been very pleased with the results. I’m getting a lot more groundballs so today was good.
“I’m happy and healthy and that’s all that really matters,” he said.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said he thinks the club is better prepared personnel-wise heading into his second year as manager.
“We filled a lot of holes that we had last year,” he said. “Our bullpen should throw a lot more strikes, our defense will be better and our offense will have more left-handed hitters.”
Mariners No. 2 starter Hisashi Iwakuma was scheduled to throw 80 pitches but came out after four innings because a dry skin on his fingertips. He said through an interpreter that it happens every spring and it was nothing to be worried about.
Iwakuma had a solid outing other than a ball he left up to Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano, who connected for a two-run shot in the third inning. In his four innings, the right-hander allowed five hits, three earned with no walks and four strikeouts.
Notes: Villanueva has worn No. 57 all spring but will switch to No. 33 in regular season. ... The Cubs will play games today and Saturday in Houston before opening the season in Pittsburgh on Monday.